Letting in Light on Blessings

by

Edmond Long, pastor

Bruce Wilkinson's book, The Prayer of Jabez, has enjoyed unprecedented success. How sad it would be if the premise for this book proved to be biblically unsound. Basically, Wilkinson proposes that God has a specific number of blessings in store for each Christian for each day. The key to receiving these blessings is to pray the prayer of Jabez. Failure to ask means the believer will miss what God wants to do for him. Two issues are brought to light by this book. First, how does the Bible define blessing? Second, who is sovereign, God or man? How one answers these questions will determine his response to Wilkinson's book.

In The Prayer of Jabez, a blessing is an experience, a thing, or a person. Wilkinson applies the term as it is popularly used. One might say, "He's a real blessing to me." Or, "You really blessed my life today." Now, these are great sentiments, but are they a biblically sound expression of blessing?

There are two Hebrew words and two Greek words translated bless, blessing, blessed, etc. They are roughly equivalent in their meanings. The most frequently used Hebrew word is barak, used 371 times in the Old Testament. Its corresponding term in Greek is eulogía (literal meaning, "good word"). It is used 66 times. The other Hebrew term is asher. It is used 35 times, almost exclusively in Psalms. The comparable word in Greek is makários, used 47 times.

Barak is uniquely associated with God; asher is never used by God or about him. Asher is reserved for man. It is a word implying envious desire, or the compelling longing to be like someone else. To be blessed in the asher sense results from someone doing something positive. The same is similarly true of the Greek word makários. Both words typically are found in the following form, "Blessed is the man who . . ." (cf. Ps. 1:1; 2:12; 32:1; 41:1; et al; Matt. 5:3-11; James 1:12; Rev. 1:3; et al)

Barak and eulogía are much different. They are the words God uses when He blesses someone. Also, barak and eulogía are words used to affirm the goodness of God or to describe someone's state of being. A barak blessing is not deserved, but is given because of God's choosing, not man's goodness or worth.

The Bible never uses any of these words as Wilkinson applies the word blessing. In Scripture, no one is ever said to be a blessing to someone else. A blessing is never a material thing. Prosperity results from God's blessing (barak, cf. Prov. 10:22), but the prosperity is not the blessing. A blessing is never a situation or circumstance. In the case of asher and makários, blessing is an inner state of being that is the result of trust and obedience.